Celebrated composer and College of the Canyons professor Dr. Daniel Catan died suddenly Saturday in Texas.
Catan’s colleagues at COC are shocked, as Dr. Floyd Moos described the staff as “speechless.”
“We’re just stunned and thunderstruck,” Moos said. “He had such a presence in so many of our lives, both professionally and personally. We’re shocked. All of us who are part of this family feel like he was our brother.”
The 62-year-old Catan was teaching at the University of Texas Butler School of Music this semester; he was expected to attend performances of his opera “Il Postino” in Houston this weekend. According to a University of Texas spokeswoman, Catan died in his sleep and there is no foul play suspected. He did not suffer from any known illness.
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Catan came to COC in 1999 and in 2010 was a professor of fundamentals, music appreciation, jazz and modal counterpoint at the college.
Catan’s operatic interpretation of the 1994 film “Il Postino” debuted September 23, 2010 in Los Angeles. Placido Domingo played the poet Pablo Neruda and tenor Charles Castronovo played the title character, postman Mario Ruoppolo.
“One of the things I was thinking about, during the time when he was getting so much attention because of ‘Il Postino,’ was that he had already begun work on this new opera,” Moos said.
At the time of his death, he was working on an operatic adaptation of the Frank Capra movie “Meet John Doe,” which was to premiere at University of Texas, Austin in 2012.
“He’d come into my office and we’d talk about the work and how excited and engaged he was to do this new project,” he added. “It struck me as the perfect Daniel Catan moment, because if he wasn’t so humble and incredibly self-effacing, another person would have been self-absorbed in the spotlight of ‘Il Postino’ and he was already energized about the new project.”
Moos said that, while Catan was excited about “Il Postino,” the Capra work was going to be rather revolutionary, as it would be performed in English.
He added that Catan wasn’t just a friend, but an inspiration.
“I am going to enjoy talking about Daniel Catan for the rest of my life,” he said.
The college may do a future tribute to Catan, depending on the wishes of his family. Moos said he wouldn’t be surprised if the L.A. Opera did some sort of homage to him as well.
For a previous story on Catan’s work on “Il Postino,” click here.
Catan’s original chamber opera “Rappaccini’s Daughter” was presented in workshop at COC in 2009 as part of the college’s outreach efforts to offer multicultural programming at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center. The opera was the first done by a Mexican composer, which debuted at the San Diego Opera in 1994. He was also known for the 1996 opera “Florence In the Amazon.”
Daniel Catan was born in Mexico City and resided in Pasadena. He is survived by his wife, Andrea Puente as well as three children and four grandchildren.